Archive for September, 2008


Everything That I Am

My husband and I love Broadway musicals. In June 2006 while we were waiting for our son to come home, we took a trip to New York City and saw several musicals. We’d been debating about seeing Tarzan: The Broadway Musical. We’d loved other Disney musicals but this one had received mixed reviews when it had opened the month before. In the end we decided to see and what a mistake it would have been for us to skip that one.

If you’ve seen the Disney movie Tarzan, then you know the premise of the show. But the Broadway version takes the adoption message further. It’s so touching to see Tarzan struggle with not looking like his family, not feeling like he fits, yet coming through the struggle by figuring out exactly who he is. I don’t consider myself an emotional person (although motherhood has made me more emotional than I’ve ever been), but as I sat in the theater watching this show, I teared up. Even now there are times when both my husband and I are listening to the show’s soundtrack that we’ll tear up.

One of our favorite songs, and favorite moments in the show, is the song “Everything That I Am.” Tarzan has just learned of his first family and is struggling to reconcile his past with this current family and where he fits into it all. The lyrics to the song are below, and it’s available at iTunes.

Sadly the show closed on Broadway. But it’s coming back next year at various musical theaters across the country. To see if it’s coming near you, check out this link. We highly recommend the show for all adoptive families and hope to take our son to see it next summer.

“Everything That I Am”
Is this my past here before me
Is this my story unfolding?
It’s all here to discover
Everything that I am
Can this be what I’ve been seeking?
All my life I’ve been waiting for this
And now these memories
Will they make me see more?

Ooh I want to know where I belong
I want to know where I came from
I want to know the reason why I’m here
The way I am
Feeling the things I feel

Is this my family?
Can it really be them that I see?
My father and mother
And in their arms can it really be me
All these emotions
I can barely control
Cause the family I had
Is not the family I know?

Ooh and I got to know where I belong
I got to know where I came from
I got to know the reason why I’m here
The way I am
Feeling the things I feel

These spirits calling me
Familiar voices haunting
Disappearing taunting me
This is the choice I must make

Cause I know where I belong
I know where I, I came from
I know the reason why
I must decide
And leave here
The man I am inside

The future is clear for me to see
To be the man I’m meant to be
Like my father with my head up high
Standing tall
And proud of all
That I am

I’m a man!


Great Korean Resource

Today I was reminded of a great resource for families with Korean children so I thought I’d share that in a separate post. It’s the Korea Society in New York. If you haven’t been to the society’s Web site, you’ve missed a wealth of information.

The Publications page is my favorite area of the site. On this page you’ll find classroom curriculum about Korea for grades kindergarten through 12th. The curriculum includes lesson plans, worksheets and fun activities about Korea. For example, the elementary lessons include geography, a virtual trip to Korea, cultural customs, and more.

The lessons are provided in PDF files and can be downloaded for free. The Web site has them set up so you can download the entire set of lessons per age group at one time (the elementary one is 87 pages long) or you can pick the “Best of” each series of lessons by going to the folder marked “Best of…” or you can search through them by subject and pick that way. These lessons are great resources to use either at home with your own children or in your child’s class at school.

The Publications page of the site also has Podcasts avaiable for free for those of you using iTunes. The Podcasts range in subject matter from Korean folktales to history to politics.

I know some of you have asked about learning more about Korean history and culture. Well, I think these lessons provide a fun way for your whole family to do just that.


Language Is a Key Connection

Can you imagine growing up in another culture knowing that you’re American yet not speaking English or being able to communicate with people you are related to by blood? That’s the case for so many adoptees who were born in countries like Korea, China, Guatemala or others. In the past many adoptees have grown up thinking of themselves as caucasian Americans only to find when they enter college that others see them as Asian or Latino. Yet, they don’t really fit into the Asian or Latino communities because they don’t speak their native language or know much about the culture.

We’ve planned all along for our son to learn Korean. And we’ve had people asked us if that’s really the best idea; after all, when’s he going to use Korean. Well, we’re hoping he’ll use it at home since we plan to learn Korean as well. But most importantly, he won’t face the stigma of being Korean and not speaking Korean (and believe me, there is a stigma that we’ve heard about first had from both adoptees and mixed-race friends).

But we’ve found that teaching a child Korean is easier said than done. There just aren’t a lot of Korean language programs or helps out there for children. The search for such helps, though, has led us to numerous resources for other languages. So, below I’m sharing the resources we’ve found for a variety of languages.

Teach Me series
This series has 10 language sets available, including Korean, Chinese and Spanish, and uses songs to teach the languages. They also have teacher’s guides to you use the series and the company is starting an “Everyday Series” that will teach phrases and more. The CD-book sets are about $15 and the teacher’s guides are around $8. Some of these sets are available through

KidSpeak series
This series is for kids ages 5-13 and uses animation and games to teach the language. They have nine languages for kids, including Korean, Chinese and Spanish; they also offer two combo packs (a 6-1 world pack and a 4-1 Asian pack). Individual languages are $30 and the combo packs are $40-$50.

Rosetta Stone series
This series is for bigger kids and adults and pricier than the ones above. But lots of people have had great success with this series.

Favorite Korean online resources
Indiana University has two sites that help teach some basic Korean. This site goes over hangeul, the Korean alphabet. This site is a multimedia dictionary that goes over lots of different words and phrases. On this site each word/phrase is said by both a male and female speaker. Our son loves practicing the names of animals on this site.

Well, it’s not a lot but hopefully you’ll find some resources here to get you started no matter what language you’re looking for.


September 11

For our nation today is a day of rememberance. For most Americans many sad memories are associated with day. The same is true for my husband and myself. However, two years ago a good memory also became associated with this date. It’s the day we left for Korea to pick up our amazing son.

Many people were surprised that we would travel on Sept. 11. But when our travel call came on Sept. 5 and we were told we couldn’t leave right away because our Korean social worker was on vacation, we decided we we would leave as soon as we could regardless of the date. We got to the Denver airport around 6 a.m. that Monday. Our check-in process was halted while the United staff participated in a moment of silence to mark the time the first plane hit the World Trade Center five years ago.

Since it was the fifth anniversary the newspapers had special sections and all of the news stations had extensive coverage of the memorials that year. We watched while we waited to board our plane to Los Angeles. For us it was amazing to think about how our lives were about to change, and how five years ago we couldn’t have imagined the trip we were now embarking on. Even a year before my husband would have told you that he never wanted to leave the country, especially to travel to a place where English wasn’t the first language spoke.

All we can say is that God really worked in our lives. For eight years we had prayed asking God to reveal His plan for us. We weren’t sure we were cut out to be parents and just wanted God to guide us through this major decision. He answered those prayers by leading us to our son.

In that last two years, we’ve changed a lot. Our hearts are different, our mindsets are different, our view of the world is different. Now we’re a family longing to live in Korea and praying again that God will guide us so we see his plan for our family.


추석 (Chuseok), Korean Thanksgiving

Chuseok, or Korean Thanksgiving, is coming up in a week or so, which presented the perfect opportunity to share some ideas on how to celebrate with your family.

First let me share a little background. The Chuseok holiday falls according to the lunar calendar, usually sometime between mid-September and early October on the solar calendar. In 2008 its Sept. 14; here are the dates for the next four years: Oct. 3, 2009, Sept. 22, 2010, Sept. 12, 2011, and Sept. 30, 2012. In Korea the day before Chuseok and the day after Chuseok are also national holidays, allowing everyone to travel to their ancestral homes.

Chuseok is a time to give thanks for the harvest and pay respects to ancestors. Lots of food is prepared, then the family dressed in new hanboks performs the ritual of charye at the family’s ancestoral graves. The one food that is most closely associated with Chuseok is songpyeon. This is a rice cake filled with sesame, red beans, and chesnuts. Here’s a recipe for songpyeon. For Chuseok the rice cakes are usually shaped like crescent moons. Other foods that are eaten include rice, soup, fish, meat, fruit (such as apples pears, oranges or persimmons) and greens (bean sprouts and spinach).

Traditionally games and various activites were also a part of the Chuseok celebration. Games included archery, seesawing for the girls, tug of war, and wrestling. You can find out more about traditional Chuseok celebrations here and here.

And here are some ways that your family can celebrate Chuseok in the United States.

• Since food is such an important part of Chuseok, plan a Korean feast for your family. Korean meals usually include the colors red, green, yellow, white and black. San jok (grilled beef and vegetable skewers) are wonderful, relatively easy, and often served on festive occasions in Korea. I use a recipe from the cookbook, Cooking the Korean Way by Okwha Chung, which I found in the children’s seciton of our local library. But here is a very similar one in case you don’t have access to a Korean cookbook. Another food to include is ho bak jon (zucchini pancakes). These are listed in Cooking the Korean Way as a “favorite food at the time of the Harvest Moon Festival, Chuseok.” Again they are easy to make and very tasty. Here‘s a recipe I found on the Web. Mandu (which we buy frozen at our Korean market), sticky rice, and kimchi could round out your meal. If you’re not up trying songpyeon, serve fruit for dessert (Korean pears or persimmons are yummy), make sesame cookies, or make American sugar cookies or crisp rice treats in the shape of a crescent moon.

• Since Chuseok is about honoring ancestors, you could set a photo of your family patriarch on the table and talk about what how that family member helped shape your family in some way. What has been passed down from that generation to your children? What have your ancestors given you that you’re most thankful for?

• Read a book about Chuseok. See if Sori’s Harvest Moon Festival by Lee, Uk-bae, or In the Moonlight Mist by Daniel Son Souci is available from your library.

• Play a game of yut nori. If you have a Korean market nearby, you’ll likely be able to find a yut set there. But if you don’t, or you’d like to make a craft of our it for your kids, here you’ll find instructions on how to make the pieces you’ll need and the instructions on how to play.

This blog post from 2006 shows some games that young kids Korea may play in school during the week of Chuseok. There are several cool ideas here that you could use for your family.

Chuseok is one of the major holidays in Korea and provides a great opportunity for your family to connect with your child’s birth culture. I would love to hear your ideas about ways to celebrate Chuseok so please share in the comments section.

And if you want to read more a little more, here’s a blog about how one Korean-American family celebrated the holiday in the U.S.

My Korean Culture Blog

Just a reminder that if you want to learn more about Korean culture (both traditional and pop culture), language resources, and cooking, check out my other blog: It's filled with resources for adoptive families or anyone interested in Korean culture.

Favorite Korean Movies-TV Shows

Be Strong, Geum-Soon
Please Teach Me English
Spy Girl
Tae Gu Ki
2009 Lost Memories

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